Why Older Men Get UTIs

Most women don’t escape adulthood without experiencing at least one urinary tract infection; it’s highly unpleasant but usually clears up quickly with the correct antibiotic.  But for older adults, the symptoms of a UTI can be quite different and although the source of the problem may not be the same, men are not excluded from developing this common infection.

Up to 60 percent of women will develop a urinary tract infection in their lives but men are also at risk for UTIs, especially after the age of 50.  Men with an enlarged prostate gland, kidney stones, diabetes or who have a bladder catheter insertion are at greater risk for getting a UTI. 

According to the Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials report, the risk for a UTI increases for older adults who are frail and can sometimes lead to delirium, hospitalization and even death.  Confusion is not always a sign of a urinary tract infection among the elderly but dehydration can cause delirium and also contribute to a UTI.  

If you suspect a elderly loved one may have developed a UTI, also check for other symptoms including a fever over 100.5 F, urinary urgency and increased frequency, pain with urination and tenderness in the lower abdomen.  Two of these symptoms along with a positive urine culture will confirm a urinary tract infection.  Men may only be able to release small amounts of urine at a time and it may be cloudy, bloody or foul-smelling. 

In older men, a UTI can be caused by a bladder obstruction; an enlarged prostate prevents the bladder from emptying completely, creating an environment where infection can develop.  Newer treatments are available using steam to shrink the prostate, which can improve urine flow with fewer risks for side effects such as incontinence or impotence.   Older men haver reported dramatic improvements within three months; significantly reducing the need for repeated nocturnal visits to the bathroom. 

Whether or not cranberry juice or probiotics help to prevent UTIs is still unclear but drinking enough fluids, practicing good hygiene and talking with your doctor about a low-dose vaginal cream for postmenopausal women are recommended.   Researchers are also studying supplements that may help prevent harmful bacteria from populating the digestive tract, leading to UTIs in women. 

To learn more about the prevention of urinary tract infections in men, follow this link to Harvard Men’s Health Watch, and remember to keep drinking water!